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Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

Using Ancestry to Meet Your Long Lost Cousins

Last month's column was a tutorial for my readers explaining how to utilize Ancestry's new tools designed to pinpoint the relationship of DNA matches where you do not recognize the name. I've spent a couple of months now exploring that tool and actually making contact with my long-lost cousins.


What a delightful Journey this has been! I've actually identified several cousins by utilizing the Learn More application that permits you to seek out the DNA matches that show a common ancestor.


Rather than repeat the step-by-step instructions given in last month's column, kindly refer to the original column for your tutorial. Your author has also made numerous suggestions recommending you use all the computerized tools available to flesh out your knowledge of the relatives in your tree. For instance, after adding my DNA matches, working from closest to most distant, I've utilized the internet search engines to locate those relatives on social media and any other information I can find to verify their identity.


My now deceased, but very beloved, cousin Joyce Schumacher would have loved these tools made available to us today. Joyce was all about making contact with living relatives, while my interest was devoted to seeking my ancestors. Joyce and I would go to the library genealogical section or to the closest National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility and spend hours and hours looking at indices, jotting down notes, standing in line to get a microfiche record, waiting for an available machine, stressing our eyes and patience looking for the record we sought, jotting down the cross reference for that record, standing in another line to get a printout, and feeling Victorious if we managed to capture one or two pieces of information on that full day trip!


Today, the advantages of armchair genealogy are clearly obvious. I can zip through dozens of Records for one family line, sorting out vital facts using name, date, and location to zero in on the proper record. I can then use those facts and the internet search engines to locate living relatives and perhaps, make contact through social media.


This past two months I have done exactly that. I now have as friends on Facebook several cousins whose names as DNA matches held no clue as to how we were related.


But using the tool on Ancestry to Learn More and combining that with the incredible reach of internet search engines, my newfound, once long-lost, cousins are now friends! And to make life richer and more enjoyable, I now have photographs, stories, and a sense of family that reaches back in time.


It has been most rewarding to rediscover a couple of cousins who once lived in the next County from us in Texas. Their ancestral link just happens to have been my mother's best friend who also was her first cousin. It has been decades since I had any contact with that close family. Now I have recent photographs of my cousin and his daughter and nieces and grandchildren. I've learned what fabulous lives a couple of those cousins have managed to create. I am rewarded with New-found Joy in my contact with each of them.


So, use the tools and scientific advances available to you to fit those DNA matches into your tree and more importantly, into your life. Get into that armchair and explore your genealogy. You may find treasures to enrich your life.


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